We've said it before, but this week we promise: Maryland's secondary will be tested today. That unit entered the season as an unknown, with two safeties who had never started a game and two cornerbacks who split one starting role last year. And somehow, after seven games, the secondary is still largely an unknown. Why? Look at the team's run-heavy schedule. Five of Maryland's first seven opponents have passing attacks ranked in the bottom 25 percent nationally. Only Clemson, with the 34th-ranked passing offense, is in the top half of the country. Florida State, though, is ranked sixth, and redshirt freshman quarterback Drew Weatherford leads the ACC with 268.3 passing yards per game. And he has plenty of big-play targets, including 6-foot-6 freshman Greg Carr, who averages better than 23 yards per reception and leads the conference with eight touchdown catches. "They'll go up top on you pretty much every down, any situation, and take a chance," Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson said. "So this is a great opportunity for our secondary to see how good we really are."
The Terps could ease the secondary's burden with a threatening pass rush, but aside from a victory over Virginia, that rush has been fairly feeble. Against the Cavs, Maryland recorded seven sacks; in their six other games, the Terps have eight sacks. The rush could be helped by the addition of senior Ricardo Dickerson, who became a full-time fullback last spring but moved back to defense this week. Dickerson logged 29 plays on defense against the Seminoles last year, and likely will be used heavily at the hybrid linebacker-defensive end position today.
In August, sophomore Lance Ball, left, was the least heralded of Maryland's trio of running backs, but with November on the horizon, he has become the Terps' most reliable runner. Ball has led Maryland in rushing yards two of the past three games, and his 292 yards in that span are nearly double the combined contributions of Mario Merrills and Keon Lattimore (149 yards). His 5.3 yards per carry also is easily the best among the three backs. "When you look at the stats, Lance is far and above ahead of the other guys," Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen said. Lattimore injured his shoulder in the Terps' loss to Virginia Tech and is doubtful today. Merrills and former scout-teamer J.P. Humber will back up Ball.
With Boston College's loss to Virginia Tech on Thursday night, the Seminoles are moving closer to the ACC's Atlantic Division title. By winning today and then against either N.C. State or Clemson, Florida State would clinch a spot in the ACC championship game. Maryland can still win the division, but only by sweeping its final four games. If they lose today, the Terps would need to win two of their final three games to qualify for a bowl.